Indian media reports say that national carrier Air India is facing mass resignations of its pilots as they are unhappy with their salary and promotion. Around 120 Airbus A-320 pilots have tendered their resignation after their demands for a salary hike and promotion were not met by the AI management.
The resignations come as the Modi government has decided to divest its stake in the carrier, which has a debt of Rs 60,000 crore (US$8.4 billion).
The government has propped up the debt-laden airline for years by infusing equity to keep it alive - the government injected US$553 million into Air India in the fiscal year that ended on March 31.
A government official told Reuters in July, that the government expects to get US$2.1 billion from selling the airline.
In August, three Indian oil companies - including Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) - suspended sale of jet fuel to Air India at six domestic airports, because the carrier has been missing payments for several months.
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To discuss the proposed privatisation, Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani has called a meeting with all trade unions, including those of pilots, engineers and officers on October 14 at the airline's headquarters in New Delhi.
The unions have already described the privatisation plans as fraught with "disastrous" consequences.
The development comes as the government has announced it is mulling to issue a preliminary information memorandum (PIM) early next month, which will lay the road map for its exit from the core aviation business.
Asked if the operations of the national carrier would suffer due to the mass resignation, an Air India spokesman said that the airline has plenty of surplus pilots. "Our operations will not suffer at any cost, due to resignation," the spokesperson added. Air India has a total of 2,000 pilots out of which 400 are executive.
Meanwhile, the disgruntled pilots are sure that they will get a job somewhere else as other India-based carriers such as IndigoAir, GoAir, Vistara and Air Asia India are all operating Airbus A-320 aircraft.
Nol van Fenema
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